TALLAHASSEE – Florida hospitals are now facing a dilemma, stuck between conflicting federal and state policies on employee vaccine mandates.
To comply with one they would have to violate the other and both come with stiff financial penalties.
Hospitals have until December 6th to vaccinate all of their employees under a US Department of Health and Human Services rule.
Related: Gov. DeSantis signs legislation restricting COVID vaccine mandates in Florida
Florida Hospital Association President Mary Mayhew told us hospitals plan to comply because failing to do so would cost them billions of dollars in Medicaid funding.
“Because of our obligation to ensure access for elderly Floridians for those who depend upon the Medicaid program,” said Mayhew.
But complying with the federal policy means hospitals will be at odds with the new state law banning vaccine mandates.
Even some Republicans are concerned.
“We can’t have both of these at the same time and put these hospitals in this position. It’s untenuous,” said State Representative Spencer Roach.
Democratic lawmakers said the problem could have been avoided by exempting health care workers from the mandate ban.
“What we could have done was accepted the amendments that would have fixed that problem,” said State Representative Fentrice Driskell.
Dozens of lawsuits have been filed against the HHS rule, but unlike the OSHA vaccine requirement, so far no court has blocked the vaccine mandate for health care workers.
Florida has now joined at least 22 other states already suing to block the HHS rule.
The Legislature dedicated $5 million to the Attorney General in its vaccine mandate ban to pursue enforcement of the state’s policy and legal action against mandates promulgated by the federal government.
House Speaker Chris Sprowls said this battle was always destined to be resolved in the courts.
“Which is why we provided the money for the Attorney General to make sure that we could do that effectively and adequately,” said Sprowls.
And unless the courts say otherwise, hospitals said they’ll comply with the HHS rule over the new state law, exposing them to $10,000 or $50,000 fines per violation.